Amendments to a draft code of practice for continuing and welfare attorneys should be rendered more user friendly, lest they discourage people from supporting vulnerable adults, the Faculty of Advocates maintains.
The comments come in Faculty's response to a Scottish Government consultation on an updated draft of the Code of Practice for Continuing and Welfare Attorneys issued under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000.
Faculty recognises, and commends, the thoroughness with which developments in the law have been addressed in the draft code, which it said was to be commended pending the implementation of the Scott Review, due to report in September 2022. It recognises concern that the current code of practice, issued in 2018, will be considerably outdated if not revised prior to such time as any recommendations of the Scott Review are enacted in legislation. Such concerns include whether the operation of the 2000 Act remains consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by the UK Government in 2019, which the Scottish Government intends to incorporate into the domestic law of Scotland as part of a wider Human Rights Bill.
However, Faculty warns that the current level of detail and complexity in the draft code may prove problematic, given that it is intended to guide individuals who may not have prior professional experience of acting as a continuing or welfare attorney.
"The potential effect on the office holder may well be one of being overwhelmed by detail to the point where the guidance may be ignored or the attorney simply leaves office", Faculty comments in relation to one paragraph. "It is acknowledged that this is no simple matter to resolve, but it may be helpful to reconsider whether... the balance of the information provided can be altered in the interests of accessibility. It is important that an attorney can demonstrate that proper regard has been given to the guidance in discharging their office, which implies a level of understanding which may be compromised by a surfeit of information."
It concludes: "What should be avoided if possible is production of a document which discourages lay individuals from carrying out an important support to vulnerable adults."